Tuesday, April 30, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for May 1-7

May 1–May 7


THE CAINE MUTINY (May 4, 4:15 pm): Humphrey Bogart in his last great role, Lieutenant Commander Philip Frances Queeg, the head of the USS Caine, a Navy destroyer minesweeper. Queeg is losing his wits and desperately trying to have a final glorious moment as a commander, which puts his crew at risk. The final straw is his refusal to avoid a typhoon and then freeze when told of the danger facing the ship. That leads to a peaceful mutiny - thus the clever title - and a court martial. The supporting cast - Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray (the latter in particular) - is excellent. 

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (May 7, 8:00 pm): Besides Rififi, this 1950 movie is the greatest caper film noirs in cinematic history, and is among the finest film noirs ever made. The performances of the jewel-heist gang are memorable: Sam Jaffe as the mastermind, James Whitmore as the getaway driver, Anthony Caruso as the safecracker, and Sterling Hayden as the muscle. The classic 11-minute heist scene is filled with intensity and drama. The perfect crime isn't so perfect and with each passing scene things go wrong. It comes with my highest recommendation.


GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (May 4, 8:00 pm): A wonderful Warners Depression musical about three chorus girls who not only have to find a way to keep their show going, but who also have to land rich husbands. Mervyn LeRoy directed the backstage antics, but Busby Berkeley directed the wonderful show stopping numbers, including “We’re in the Money,” (with Ginger Rogers singing in English and pig-Latin), “Shadow Waltz,” “Petting in the Park,” and “Remember My Forgotten Man,” (Joan Blondell voiced over by Mirian Anderson).

FOOTLIGHT PARADE (May 4, 10:00 pm): More of the same from Warners, only this time it's Jimmy Cagney as a producer of short musical prologues for movies fighting time and a rival company’s spies in order to get his product ready. Joan Blondell steals the movie as Cagney’s lovesick secretary. With Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler as the eternal juveniles. Cagney wows us in the finale with Ruby Keeler in the “Shanghai Lil” number. And is that really John Garfield in a cameo at the beginning of the number? Meanwhile, try to spot Dorothy Lamour as an uncredited chorus girl. This was her screen debut.


ED: A. It’s the movie Frank Capra made to tide his family over while he served in the Army – and it’s a great comedy. Cary Grant is his usual wonderful (though he later hated his performance as too over the top), Peter Lorre is a revelation, and Priscilla Lane’s performance is yet another reminder of how Warners misused her during her tenure there. (Lane is sort of the ‘40s version of Joan Blondell, a gifted comedienne to everybody but Jack Warner.) The only discordant note is the substitution of Raymond Massey as Jonathan Brewster for Boris Karloff, who originated the role on Broadway. Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, and John Alexander all reprised their Broadway roles and were given the time off to do so, but the play’s producers felt that loaning Karloff would seriously injure the box office, so permission was denied. (Couldn’t Capra have cast Bela Lugosi instead and just changed the Jack Carson’s line to “Look at that puss. He looks like Bela Lugosi!”) At any rate, it’s one of the few Warners’ comedies of the time that was actually funny.

DAVID: D. I wish this film was good. Unfortunately, it's barely passable. Cary Grant was an outstanding dramatic actor. But his comedic talent was a lot more miss (Bringing Up BabyGunga Din and this film) than hit (His Girl Friday and The Philadelphia Story). This movie is also out of director Frank Capra's comfort zone as dark comedies were not his area of expertise. In their defense, even if both were at the top of their games, this film was going to be a disaster. It's not funny or entertaining and the script is terrible. When my oldest daughter was in a high school production of this a few years ago, it was bad, but not that much worse than this film. That tells me that no matter the talent level from high school kids to screen legends, this never works. Grant once called it his worst movie. It's bad, but Bringing Up Baby is his worst film.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

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